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Residents reflect on the teachers who changed their lives

BUCKHANNON – Other than our family members and perhaps our spiritual leaders, teachers are regarded as some of the largest influences in our lives. Now that school is out, My Buckhannon wanted to take the time to shine the spotlight on some of the Upshur County teachers, allowing residents to reflect on their favorite instructors from the past and thank them for helping mold them into the adults they have become.

Upshur County Board of Education President Dr. Tammy Samples shares a story of one of her teachers who left a huge impact on her life.

“Jayne Byrd was my third-grade-teacher,” Samples said. “Looking back, I am not sure what made her special – she just was. She had a way of making everyone feel 10 feet tall and capable of doing anything. She loved teaching and her students. As I write this, I can remember so many things from that classroom – an apple wall clock, a large poster of a dog in a Christmas scene, the students and the learning.”

Samples said she was a good reader, so Byrd let her ‘tutor’ another student in the class. “That is where my love of teaching was born.”

“Miss Byrd became Mrs. Carson that very summer,” Samples said. “Our paths crossed from time to time over the next several years. When I entered middle school, she was teaching reading. I did not get to have her for class but it was great to get to see her in the hallway.”

Following her graduation from high school, Samples said she headed to West Virginia University to pursue an education degree.

“Upon graduation from WVU, I returned to Upshur County to begin my teaching career – which I hoped would mirror hers in the impact that I was able to have on my students,” she said. “By this time, Mrs. Carson was the principal at Central Elementary School.

“One of my first days as a substitute found me at Central Elementary School. It was at this time that a transition started, from teacher and student to mentor and colleague. Just as she had done in that third-grade classroom, she took me under her wing with pointers and praise to improve my practice.”

That relationship continued as Samples career progressed.

“Ironically, my first full time job was at Central Elementary School under the tutelage of Mrs. Carson,” Samples shared. “It was definitely a full-circle moment. I was only able to each in that school for one year, but Mrs. Carson remained a trusted colleague and friend.”

Unfortunately, Jayne B. Carson passed away in October 2016.

“Every day I teach and prepare teacher candidates, I remember the lessons she taught me – from the ones I learned in third grade, all the way through to the times we shared in our teacher sorority,” Samples said. “The impact she had on me is difficult to put into words, but it is always there in everything I do.”

Mary Alice Poling said in 10th grade typing, she had Sharon Bonnett.

“Not only was she a great typing teacher, but she had time to listen to her students and their problems,” Poling said. “I have been out of high school 40 years, and I still think back on her classes. I can still remember who I sat next to. I just loved that class and Mrs. Bonnett. Thank you, Sharon Bonnett.

Jordin Marie Aguayo-Wilcher also weighed in with some of her favorite instructors.

“I  had a lot of favorite teachers, but Brent Kimble and Mateal Poling were the two that had the most impact on me when I was in school,” Aguayo-Wilcher said. “They both were at Buckhannon-Upshur High School. I had Mr. Kimble for AP psychology, and he is one of the advisors for Youth Leadership Academy. Poling taught health and an advanced special topics course.”

“Kimble really prepared me for college and law school and I felt like I really learned how to learn, so to speak,” Aguayo-Wilcher continued. “He encouraged us not to be complacent.

“Poling made sure to emphasize that health isn’t just your physical health, but mental, emotional and social as well, which I felt was ahead of its time for when I was taking the course. She was like, and still is, a second mother to me, and if I ever needed to cry or rant or just needed to go somewhere during lunch to get away, I knew I could go to her room and she would hear me out.”

Annette Fetty Santilli said she had several favorite teachers while in school.

“One that sticks in my mind was Martha Feola,” Fetty Santilli said. “I had her for English my junior year and liked her so much I took Spanish my senior year.”

Susan Aguayo Miley said narrowing down her favorite teacher would be tough because she had so many wonderful instructors.

“Nancy Neff Burgess was the first teacher that valued me beyond my social status,” Aguayo Miley said. “Having a teacher value you changes your view of yourself. That was in third grade at East Main.”

She also vividly recalled another teacher, Ted Crites in 7th grade.

“He did the same thing even though he was exceptionally cranky,” she said. “I’ve always struggled at testing. When I started lacking in self-confidence and didn’t make it into pre-algebra, I ended up in his class instead. He pushed me and made me realize that I was smart enough to be in the next year’s algebra class. I was the only one that made it into algebra the next year that had not been in pre-algebra. That was all Mr. Crites. He was proud of me, too.”

Aguayo Miley said she will never forget his help.

“I could probably write a book on some of the wonderful things my teachers did for me throughout the years, but those two are the first ones that came to mind because of what they did to impact who I am still to this day,” she said.

Sarah Newcome said hands down the best teacher she had in school was Susan King, who taught at the middle school.

“She taught English and made learning fun,” Newcome said. “She cared about all of her students and pushed you to do better. She taught us how to think and write creatively. Although she has retired, she continues to remain connected to her many students.”

Connie Linger said she tried to narrow her favorite teachers down to just one – but just couldn’t pick out a single favorite.

“However, I can think back on the fact that each teacher I interacted with probably gave me some little thing that accumulated as a combined influence by the end of my public education,” Linger said.

Everyone has that special teacher who helped them get through a rough patch, assisted them in lifelong learning or touched their lives in some way. This year, the Upshur County School System voted Buckhannon-Upshur High School teacher Michael Gitzen as the Upshur County Teacher of the Year.

Other Teachers of the Year at each school include:

  • Buckhannon-Academy Elementary School – Mandy Tenney
  • Rock Cave Elementary School – Amber Posey
  • Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School – Rebecca Walton
  • Tennerton Elementary School – Krista Noel Hardman
  • French Creek Elementary School – Erika Jeran
  • Union Elementary School – Kelly Caynor
  • Washington District Elementary School – Jennifer Barry

Linda Smith cook at Buckhannon-Academy Elementary School was selected as the Upshur County Service Personnel of the Year. Other Service Personnel of the Year at each school include:

  • Buckhannon-Upshur High School – Kay Snyder
  • Tennerton Elementary School – Renee McDaniels
  • Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School – Leslie Alkire
  • Union Elementary School – Tialisa Dowell
  • French Creek Elementary School – Dexter Bever
  • Washington District Elementary School – Erica Landis
  • Hodgesville Elementary School – Wilma Small
  • Rock Cave Elementary School – Melody Powers
  • Upshur County Board of Education Office – Adrienne Hissam

Editor’s note: I was going to tag this as a Member Exclusive, but it was just too good not to share with everyone. If you enjoyed reading it, please consider subscribing and supporting My Buckhannon! PS: We’re having a big sale on annual memberships right now!

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